Season One, Episode Twelve — “Isabella

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

By Brandy DykhuizenIt’s a tale as old as time – mother emotionally neglects son during his formative years, son puts on a tough face and grows into a capable yet vaguely misogynistic family man, mother’s neglect resurfaces in odd ways as the son finds himself under stress, mother takes a hit out on the son, son hallucinates busty yet brainy Italian woman nursing a babe that shares his name. Well, leave it to Livia to add sheer terror to preexisting matriarchal missteps, and Tony to take the fantasy a few steps further. In “Isabella”, Tony dons the Sad Clown costume once again, moreso now than ever before: doubling down on his meds and meandering through the house in his red-striped robe and disheveled hair like a vaguely simian zombie. Would you want to be lucid if you woke up with the realization that your own mother wants you dead?

Junior struggles with the deed far more than Liv. It literally makes him sick, as he agonizes and vomits through each failed attempt on Tony’s life, barely able to contain himself. Yet onward he pushes, even daring to show his face in Tony’s living room post-attack to offer his support. (Junior should be praying for an indictment at this point.) It’s the only thing that could place him safely out of Silvio’s and Paulie’s spiteful paws. Last episode marked a turning point in the show’s actions, and now we finally get to see what happens when the dramas within the two families – the domestic Sopranos and the DiMeo crime family – intertwine. Who will survive the inevitable thinning out?  

WHAT WORKED: There was a clever little moment during Tony and Isabella’s lunch, when she stops mid-conversation to ask, “Tony, are you on medication?” Even his hallucination is trying to nudge him back into reality. Tony would rather ride this wave of denial for as long as he can, however he can.

WHAT DIDN’T: Tony had to hit rock bottom in order for the assassination scene to have its full effect in turning him around. “Isabella” provided a beautiful vehicle for Tony to grapple with his uniquely savage mommy issues, but why she had to be an actual hallucination rather than another one of Tony’s dream sequences is beyond me. Hallucinations as a side effect of Prozac and Lithium are pretty freaking rare, at least to the exceptionally detailed and extended degree to which Tony has them. And what about when he was at the restaurant? Was he talking to himself? Did he order two meals? Wouldn’t Carmela have been more concerned when she found out he hallucinated an entire conversation with her? I mean, I get that she’s pretty much over his bullshit at this point, but that would have surely struck a nerve…


I’m King Midas in reverse here – everything I touch turns to shit.” – Tony, feeling lonely and blue.

That’s dicked up.” – Anthony Junior.

If I had an ounce of self respect, I’d cut your dick off.” – Carmela (maybe).

Tony: “I took an oath, Carmela!” Carmela: “What are you, a kid in a tree house?!” 

You’re sleeping over, right?” – Tony, to Father Phil. Not even a bullet to the ear can slow down Tony’s acerbic wit.  

BEST MOMENT: The assassination attempt is one of the most memorable and best-directed scenes of the series. From the slow buildup in the previous scenes of the blustery weather (Storm’s a-coming! Winds of change!), to Tony’s vaguely suicidal glaze as he buys his orange juice to that sudden snap during which he sees the assailant’s reflection in the windshield and we can feel the adrenaline course through his veins, we watch Tony come full-circle from purportedly losing all interest in life to reuniting with his instincts. He is, after all, a survivor by nature – far more king than clown. We hold our breath and let out a huge sigh of relief, not just because Tony prevails (and in a pretty darn badass way, too), but because we have our strong, complicated protagonist back.

EPISODE’S MVP: There are so many great things going on in this episode and so many top-notch performances that it’s truly difficult to choose. Uncle Jun’s display of nerves almost has you empathizing with a man who can kill his own nephew, no questions asked. Carmela’s stands against Tony, hallucinated or otherwise, show her as a force to be reckoned with, and even Livia shows us she is always capable of hurling a curveball our way, this time in the guise of feigned senility. But let’s go with Tony, not just because of Gandolfini’s utterly fantastic performance during the hit scene, but for the sheer range of character and emotion he displayed over the course of the episode. Not only did we see many Tonys here, but it seems that we’re successfully ticking a few of them off the list in order to move into the next season without them.  

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.


– Chris’s genuine concern for Tony’s well-being has forced him to obsess less over his own status and allowed him to slide into a more appropriate role. Ever since Tony reached out to him about depression, Chris feels protective over him and is finally capable of viewing the families in a big-picture setting, rather than through his own myopic gaze.

– Mikey has taken over Chris’ too-big-for-his-britches role, as he heckles Junior in hopes of snagging some praise and glory. Enjoy it while you can, bub.

– Carmela seems to have had it with Livia ruining all her attempts at hospitality. Liv declares loudly that this dinner will be the last time she ever visits the Soprano household, and Carmela doesn’t even offer a single shrug.  

– Remember our Fed buddy (Agent Harris) and his little visit to Tony’s hospital bed, because we’ll be seeing a lot more of him as the series progresses.

– Liv looks out for number one. Her impressive little stint at pretending not to recognize Meadow is a real kick in the gut to Junior, who realizes he will get thrown under the bus just as quickly as anyone else, if need be.  

– Jukebox Hero: “Cry” by Thornetta Davis, “I Feel Free”by Cream, “Milonga Del Angel” by Al DiMeola, “Temptation Waits”, by Garbage, “Ugly Stadium” by Tipsy.

9 out of 10

Next: “I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano”, soon.

Before: “Nobody Knows Anything”, here.